2011 in the cloud

Contrary to what you have read, tablets weren’t the “biggest thing” at CES. The biggest thing this year was actually an idea: that the boundaries that once existed for consumers are evaporating, and as far as consumers are concerned, they can’t crumble quickly enough. Home, work, shopping, social life – people want always-on access to every facet of their lives, and to each other, via any channel: mobile, online, TV, gaming, you name it. Tablets are hot only because they’re the latest hardware contributing to this new, unsiloed society.

What will this unsiloed society mean for businesses? Worst case: most of your marketing and engagement strategy is already obsolete. Better case: you’re already planning your transition, but need a bit of strategic guidance. Best case: you’re well on your way, and this post will affirm that. Here’s what CES was really all about.

Forget the funnel (because consumers already have)

In fact, they barely remember it. Today’s shopper doesn’t journey along a neatly-segmented, linear purchase path – becoming aware of products through TV and print ads, vetting choices through online research, going to stores to buy. Consumer electronics help them bounce from channel to channel – search engine to Facebook to TV to ecommerce site to stores to mobile apps, and more. They’re in a constant state of discovery, decision, and purchase. There is no funnel, and the boundaries between channels are soon to be a thing of the past as well.

The new, unsiloed shopper’s demands:

  1. Ubiquity. They want always-on access to all information, everywhere, through any device, on any network. They want the ability to do anything from anywhere – discover, research, discuss, share, buy.
  2. Connection. They want to be socially connected to each other, for greater access to even more information, conversation, and influence. They want to share content and experiences without limitations between different devices or networks.
  3. Consistency. Brands have media budget segments and often disconnected messages for reaching consumers across different channels. But to a consumer, a brand is one brand. They don’t care if your ecommerce site is managed by a different team than your Twitter feed or mobile app. They expect a seamless brand experience that meets their needs.

Empower them by meeting their demands. Be the brand behind the scenes that orchestrates this seamless experience and consumers will reward you.

Cloudy with a chance of profit

The dust of shattered siloes has coalesced into the cloud, a convergence of information, devices, and people across more powerful and accessible networks. We now exist inside a giant, connected cloud of content and conversations, and as it grows, so does our desire for immediate access to more and more of it. It’s hard to recall the last year that wasn’t predicted to be the “year of mobile” – but mobile is just one way we connect to the cloud. We had smart phones, but the content, apps, and integrated content networks hadn’t caught up.  Now that consumers are able to enter the cloud through their mobile devices, they’re looking for more portals; more access—and they’re not waiting for your brand to catch up.

The race is on to deliver the social connections and ubiquity of information consumers now demand. It seemed nearly every presentation at CES was about the “biggest, best network for universal access to content,” as companies partner to build integrated content networks and experiences. Microsoft’s presentation showcased Xbox Live as a platform for connecting friends, family, content, and commerce. But what was truly impressive was the ubiquity of the Xbox experience – the same games and apps available on the Xbox 360 will be available to users via mobile and online.

Samsung’s introduction of SmartTV echoed the same, powerful themes: aiming to converge community, entertainment, content, devices and information. Smart phones and tablets are an extension of the hub. It’s not about the medium anymore; it’s about the user and the content. Web, mobile, TV, games, and commerce are all part of a converging user experience, independent of the devices used to access it.

The cloud is here. Consumers have already started to live, work, socialize, and shop outside of the walled gardens of channel and device. Brands should embrace the cloud with even greater zeal in order to beat consumer expectations – and the competition.

Webinar: CMOs share top insights on social’s bottom line

We surveyed top CMOs in The CMO Club to get the real story about how they use social media — and their answers (and honesty) may surprise you. Join us February 2nd to hear about the results and see what’s most important — and most impactful — to top CMOs.

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